Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Jake Singer and I’m a 28-year-old photographer, multi-media content creator, and bartender from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When I’m not taking photos or pouring beer, I am working on my Podcast “The Vegan Manly Man Podcast”, my YouTube Channel (The Vegan Manly Man), or creating content for Instagram (@the_vegan_manly_man). My goal is to use veganism as a tool to inspire and educate people for the betterment of the world.
What lead you to veganism? How long ago?
Around 7.5 years ago I was studying to be a certified personal trainer and was very much into researching and learning new things. I stumbled across a documentary on Netflix one night called “Forks Over Knives” that changed my perception of meat being healthy. From there I did my own research and became vegetarian. A few months later I came across a documentary called “Earthlings” and became an ethically motivated vegan. My perception of the world changed and I haven’t looked back since.
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
My process of going vegan took 6 months. I initially dropped red meat, then poultry, then fish, then dairy and eggs. When I decided to become an ethical vegan I stopped purchasing products made of or tested on animals, and used up the products I already did have or let them wear out.
Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism?
I don’t have kids, so luckily I don’t have to make that decision. I believe people should teach kids the reasons why people are vegan and then let them choose for themselves when they become more independent.
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?
I believe at a certain age of comprehension, yes. Otherwise they may not understand why veganism is a good choice if their peers and adult influences are telling them meat is okay.
What does being vegan mean to you?
For me being vegan by definition means reducing as much suffering towards animals as possible. I include humans into the category of animals and go one step further by not only reducing suffering, but extending compassion to every living being. Obviously the world is not perfect and we will always have undesirable consequences to some of our actions, but the integrity and intention is where it counts. It’s about doing our best, not being perfect.
In regards to companies who are owned by non-vegan parent companies, I think the idea of a utopian world is naive and counter productive. While my work relies on the faith that the world will become a better place, I must let go of the idea of how it will happen. Some battles must be lost in order to win the “war”. At this point in the movement I believe any mainstream distribution of veganism (especially vegan food products) by non-vegan companies is an amazing thing. As we grow and learn the system will refine and get better, but we have to start with step one. Striving for perfection will hold us back in the view of the global population when considering veganism.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
Remaining neutral gives advantage to the oppressor. I do not scold people who are vegan but not activists, but the greatest impact we can make is using our voices to speak up for what is right. No movement in history would have progressed without rigorous activism. I strongly encourage everyone who is vegan to become an activist or advocate in a way that makes sense to them. It could be simply cooking vegan food for your friends, or it could be marching in the streets. There are many ways to be an activist as long as you don’t remain silent.
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
I am very compassionate toward non-vegans. I was not born vegan and I did not always have the views I have now. It took an open mind and education for me to transition slowly to this lifestyle. I believe humans are victims too and should be treated as such in regards to the vegan movement. Most of us were brought up to believe animal products were necessary, normal, and justified even though it went against our morals to never hurt animals. We’ve been conditioned for our whole lives, and that is not something that is always easily broken. We must show non-vegans compassion even in the midst of strong disagreement. Think of each non-vegan as a seed: If we give them water and sunlight, they stand a chance to grow into something even more beautiful, but if we give them acid and darkness, the likelihood of change is bleak.
Any recommended Vegan books?
By far the best book any vegan can read is “How To Create A Vegan World” by Tobias Leenaert.
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
There are so many amazing people that have come to be my friends that I will surely miss some, but to name a few:
www.sweetsimplevegan.com (vegan recipes/lifestyle)
www.plantbasednews.org (vegan news/opinion)
www.thevegangym.com (vegan fitness/mindset)
www.doctorvenaas.com (vegan health)
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
Honestly, I’m humbled if anyone checks out my podcast or youtube channel. I’m most active there as well as instagram. You can find links to those respective things at my website:
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
So tough to pick just one since I’ve been to so many. There is a place called “Rise Above” in St. Catherines Ontario that has always been a favorite and maybe “Candle 79” in New York City.
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
I don’t use recipes too often but there is one from the cookbook “Vegan Everyday” by Doug McNish for an amazing butternut squash Mac n cheese. I also have a few of my own on my website.
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
Find a reason outside of yourself to continue living this lifestyle. Whether it’s the environment, the animals, or just to encourage others to be healthier, it will always be easier with a motivation beyond yourself. Secondly, join a community of like minded vegans (not all vegans are the same) to socialize with even if just online. It’s so important to have a support system around you when you make a big lifestyle change. Thirdly, don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. The best things in life take time to cultivate and this is no different. Learn one thing at a time if you have to and then keep going up. We all make mistakes and you don’t have to have an all or nothing attitude to go vegan. If you can’t give up one thing like cheese, be vegan except for cheese while you learn about the dairy industry and the negative health aspect of dairy. Don’t expect yourself to change over night.
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
The vegan scene in Pittsburgh is awesome and growing. We have a handful of restaurants and a great community of activists and business owners. I’m so happy to see a thriving vegan movement in a “meat and potatoes” city.
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
Look for meetups in your city or nearby town, go to vegfests and vegan events, join groups online, or start something in your own town!
What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treats other humans too?
Although you don’t need compassion to be vegan, I believe it should encompass it. Compassion extends to all living beings, humans included. Humans are the ones who have the power to change and reverse the destruction and suffering in this world, so we should treat each individual as a piece of that puzzle. Plus, I just believe it’s the right thing to do.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
I use the vegan products from a brand called Every Man Jack for all my hygiene needs. Although they aren’t 100% vegan with a few products containing lanolin or beeswax, they are a consciously operating company that makes me smell damn good! (One day they will be 100% vegan 😉 )
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
I honestly can’t think of anything that I need regularly that I can’t easily find vegan. Sometimes medicine can be tough if the pills contain gelatin, but usually I can find an alternative (not to mention it makes the choice between 10 different brands easier). There are of course some products that are more inconvenient to find maybe in the store, but nothing I can’t buy online if I absolutely need it.
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
My first year of being vegan is definitely when I struggled. I was very bitter and angry at the world and humans, and I treated them as such. I effectively pushed away all my friends, family, and even the girl I was dating at the time. It was not a good look and I became somewhat depressed. When I switched to a more positive approach and started treating humans with empathy as well, everyone opened up to my message and I was able to focus on the solution rather than the problem. That’s why I take a positive and pragmatic approach in my activism now, because I’ve been on the other side and it backfired on me hard. While it’s easy to be upset and angry about what is really happening, we have to understand that in order to be as effective as we can in ending animal suffering, we have to be the best versions of ourselves. That includes having fun, being kind to others even amongst disagreements, being patient, and remaining calm. Sometimes these things are easier said than done, but they are achievable by everyone with the right intention and mindset.